512MB RAM (1GB preferred)
128MB video card
DX7 sound card
1GB HDD space
Europa Universalis III is an open-ended strategy game that takes place after the fall of Constantinople in 1453. You will guide your country through 300 years of conquest, diplomacy, warfare, trade, religious turbulence, colonization and exploration. I must admit that I have not played the previous Universalis games, so I can’t compare them. This game is very complex and makes Age of Empires look like a kiddie game.
How do I get started?
Given the depth of this game I highly recommend going through the tutorials before firing up a single player campaign. The tutorials will teach you how to colonize and learn military and naval basics. Most importantly you’ll learn how to navigate through the game’s complex interface. There’s a bit of a leaning curve but it’s not so bad once you’re used to it.
When starting a single player game you get to select your nation and the starting date. The difficulty level will vary depending on the nation you choose. The more prestigious nations will carry a higher difficulty level. Your ultimate goal is to be the nation with the most prestige. How you get that prestige is up to you. The game will launch in a paused state and, when you are ready, allowing you to set the progression of time to your liking. Take a look around and check out your neighbors and see what alliances you can make and what land you can claim.
This is where the game gets truly interesting. You define your nation’s character by how you expand your realm. Will you wage war? Will you be a good neighbor? What trading restrictions will you impose? There are many options you can offer to other countries. You can gain a reputation by offering a Royal Marriage (provided they share the same religion and government style). You can also build alliances in times of war. You can impose vassalisation and embargos. If it’s war you seek you can send a warning, an insult, claim a throne, or just declare war. If you want to have good relations you can send a gift, offer a loan, offer a trade agreement, or protect a nation (Proclaim Guarantee). If money is tight you can sell a province. In the midst of a war there are various forms of negotiating peace. You can Annex and claim the loser as part of your realm. White peace will settle the war in a draw. If you are winning the war, you can demand a tribute, or offer a tribute if you are losing. When offering peace you can force your religion, vassalisation or a union.
Like most strategy games there are resources you have to keep your eye on. Ducat is the name of the currency in this game. If you run out of money, a loan with a hefty interest rate will be taken out for you and will be due in five years. You can hire various units like spies, diplomats, colonists, missionaries, generals and admirals. As you gain experience you can unlock buildings and technologies that will help make your country more efficient. There are national ideas that you can adhere to. They all offer various bonuses. Some examples are Quest for the New World, Colonial Adventures, Espionage, Bill of Rights, Divine Supremacy, Scientific Revolution, Patron of the Arts, and many more.
Religion plays a major part in this game. Catholicism is pretty prevalent and caries political weight. The Holy Roman Empire carries monthly prestige for the country whose emperor leads them. For everyone else there’s the Holy See, who are Cardinals you can (monetarily) influence. If your bribe succeeds you will gain prestige, or lose prestige if your bribe fails. You can choose your national religion and tolerance level for the heretics of other faiths. There are several Christian, Eastern, Muslim, and Pagan branches to choose from. Some faiths even offer extra colonists, missionaries or a bonus.
There are three different ways of playing online. You can join or host a LAN game, join a game via IP address, or find someone through the Metaserver. The Metaserver is free and you can setup an account upon registering your game. Since these games are a bit long, you can save and resume them…phew!
The graphics are unique in this game. The amount of detail you see depends on how zoomed in you are on the map. If you’re zoomed all the way out you just see land and water. If you zoom in a little bit more you will see names of the provinces. Finally, if you zoom in even more you will see forts, battles, construction, and moving water. There’s truly nothing mind-blowing graphically in this game, but it’s really not needed.
After the intro movie, there is no voice acting. Any communication in the game is done through message prompts. There are basic sound effects like money going into a bank when your nation is prospering etc. I really enjoyed the medieval style background music.
There are many different menus you’ll have to familiarize yourself with so there’s definitely a learning curve but it’s not too bad. All the menus are explained in the tutorials. There are some handy features like a province finder that’s very useful.
\'When you’re zoomed in and looking at a battle, you just see a simple animation of one soldier attacking another. There is no bloodshed. \'Religion is not looked at in a positive light. This game features bribing, as well as allowing the player the option of little religious tolerance, and other similar ideas. Other than that this game is pretty clean.
I’ve never played such a complex strategy game before; I must admit that it is very fun. The possibilities are infinite and the replay value is endless. I truly believe that strategy gamers and history buffs will enjoy this game tremendously. I just hope it doesn’t leave people with a bad taste in their mouth regarding religion/Christianity.
Game Play 19/20 Graphics 7/10 Sound 7/10 Controls 4/5 Stability 5/5 Appropriateness 43.5/50 (violence and demeaning religion)